Lesotho is a small, landlocked, mountainous kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa. The Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) is active in Lesotho within the framework of its Regional Programme for Southern Africa, which focuses on food security and HIV/AIDS. The country is proud to call itself the “Switzerland of southern Africa”, and highlights its potential as a tourist destination. For this reason, Switzerland has a good reputation, one that goes beyond the impact of official relations.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Lesotho
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
High-level contacts take place very rarely. An official delegation from Lesotho (minister of local government) visited Switzerland in 2009. The Swiss ambassador, who resides in Pretoria, is accredited to the king of Lesotho, while the ambassador of Lesotho in Geneva is accredited to the Federal Council.
Direct trade between the two countries is modest because Swiss products consumed in Lesotho are imported via South Africa. A free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association and the Southern African Customs Union, which is made up of Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa, entered into force in 2008.
Cooperation in the domain of education and training
Scholars and artists from Lesotho can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Promotion of peace and human security
Switzerland contributes to the strengthening of electoral and democratic processes within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which includes Lesotho.
Within the framework of the Regional Programme for Southern Africa of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland supports projects in the areas of food security and HIV/AIDS. Support is focused specifically on orphans and young people affected by HIV/AIDS in order to improve protection for them through preventive and psychosocial assistance activities. Support is also targeted at farmers whose production has become more erratic owing to climate change but who must produce more than is needed for a subsistence existence. Lesotho benefits both directly and indirectly from these programmes.
Swiss nationals in Lesotho
At the end of 2015, there were 13 Swiss nationals living in Lesotho.
History of bilateral relations
Relations between Switzerland and Lesotho were established by Protestant missionaries, who settled in Morija from 1859 onwards, at the mission set up by the Frenchman Eugène Casalis, who was also counsellor to King Moshoeshoe, founder of the Basotho nation.
The Federal Council recognised Lesotho’s independence on 4 October 1966 and established diplomatic relations with the country in 1967. The local SDC office was closed in 2005.